The Yogacara Doctrine of Buddha-Nature: Paramatha vs. the Fa-hsiang School
by Wing-cheuk Chan
There were two main streams in Yogacara Buddhism. On the one hand, there was the Old School of Sthiramati and Paramartha. On the other hand, there was the New School of Dharmapala and Hsuan Tsang. Due to the work of Yoshifumi Ueda and Gadjin Nagao in Japan, the distinction between Paramartha and the Fa- hsiang School has been to a large extent clarified. The difference between their doctrines on Buddha-nature has been, however, relatively neglected by modern scholarship. This paper aims to clarify the distinction between Paramartha and the Fa-hsiang’s doctrines of Buddha-nature. Following Ueda, this paper will also differentiate Paramartha’s doctrine of Buddha-nature from the doctrine of the tathagatagarbha presented in the Awakening of Faith. Especially, we will see that Buddha-nature in the Awakening of Faith and the Fa-hsiang School are committed to a version of essentialism. Finally, it will discern some interesting parallels between Paramartha’s doctrine and the perfect teachings of T’ien T’ai)] Buddhism.
Brock University, St. Catherines, Ontario
Canadian Journal of Buddhist Studies, Number Three, 2007
© 2007 by Nalanda College Buddhist studies
There were two main streams in Yogacara Buddhism. On the one hand, there was the Old School of Sthiramati and Paramartha. On the other hand, there was the New School of Dharmapala and Hsuan Tsang. Due to the work of Yoshifumi Ueda and Gadjin Nagao, the distinction between Paramartha and the Fa-hsiang School has been to a large extent clarified.
The difference between their doctrines on Buddha-nature has been, however, relatively neglected by modern scholarship. This paper aims to clarify the distinction between Paramatha and the Fa-hsiang’s doctrines. In order to achieve this goal, it is necessary to differentiate Paramartha’s doctrine of Buddha-nature from the doctrine of the tathagatagarbha presented in the Awakening of Faith. The concepts of Buddha-nature in the Awakening of Faith and the Fa-hsiang School are committed to a version of essentialism. Paramartha, on the other hand, provides a more dynamic theory of Buddha-nature that effectively corrects the shortcomings of both the Awakening of Faith and the Fa-hsiang School. Furthermore, being consistent with the Mahayana commitment to equality, Paramartha’s doctrine bears significant affinity with the perfect teachings of T’ien T’ai Buddhism.
Traditionally, the Fo-hsing lun (Theory of Buddha-Nature) has been identified as the most important text on Buddha-nature in Yogacara Buddhism. 2 Mou Tsung-san (1909-1995)—a major founder of contemporary Neo-Confucianism—develops an interpretation of this text in his Fo-hsing yu po-je (Buddha-Nature and Prajña).3 In order to pursue this line of thinking, we will start with a critical examination of Mou’s interpretations, and then indicate our agreement with Ueda’s differentiation of Paramartha’s doctrine from the Awakening of Faith.
This will give rise to a separation of Paramartha’s theory of Buddha-nature from more traditional interpretations.4 Historically, the Korean monk Yuan Hsiao (Wenhyo, 617-686) might be the first scholar who tried to discern between Paramartha’s and Hsuan Tsang’s doctrine of Buddha-nature. In the Nie-p’on tsong-yao (Nehanshuyo, A Summary of the School of Nirvana), he writes: The sixth group of masters identifies the amalavijñana as the enlightened understanding of the tathata to be the essence of Buddha-nature. As the SÃtra says, “Buddha- nature is the name of emptiness (sunyata) in the superior sense.” This is Paramartha’s doctrine [of Buddha-nature).5 []Yuan Hsiao then contrasts Paramartha’s doctrine with that of the new Fa-hsiang School:
The thesis that the natural seeds of the alayavijnana as the essence of Buddha-nature is held by the New School [of Yogacara Buddhism) and others. This is basically the position of [[masters)] belonging to the newly founded Fa hsiang School of the T'ang dynasty6
Yuan Hsiao's characterization of Paramartha's doctrine of Buddha-nature is consistent with the one given by Chi Tsang before 7
In modem scholarship, the Japanese scholar Daijo Tokiwa's Bussho no kenkyu (A Study of Buddha-Nature) is a classic work on the problem of Buddha-nature in Yogacara Buddhism.8 In his treatment of the distinction between Paramartha's and the Fa-hsiang doctrine of Buddha nature, however, Tokiwa only focuses on the contrast between the ekayiina
and the triyiina positions. Following the Chinese, as well as the Japanese tradition, Tokiwa interprets Paramartha's doctrine in terms of the tathagatagarbha presented in the Awakening of Faith.9 In the Western scholarship, John Keenan follows this line of hermeneutics.10
Although Mou knows that Paramartha has been the alleged translator of the Fo-hsing lun, for some reason he assigns this text to the lineage of the Fa-hsiang School. Following Masaaki Hattori, however, we would rather argue that one finds Paramartha's theory of Buddha-nature in the Fo-hsing lun. Accordingly, we will develop an alternative interpretation of this text to the one proposed by Mou. This will enable us to recognize the affinity between Paramartha's and the T'ien T'ai doctrine of Buddha-nature. For both of them, Buddha-nature is neither determinately pure, nor determinately impure. My understanding of Paramartha's theory of Buddha-nature is not only different from the traditional interpretation, but also confirms Ueda's differentiation of Paramartha's Yogacara thought from the doctrine of the tathagatagarbha presented in the Awakening of Faith.
According to Mou, the concept of the seed (blja) traditionally plays an important role in the Yogacara. The natural seed generally represents the force that continues from our previous deeds. As the cause of results (vipiika), which gives certain responses, it can lead to future actions, and is in sense inheritable. As is well known, there is a distinction between the pure and impure seeds. In contrast to the impure seeds, the pure seeds can lead to positive result in attaining Buddhahood. Mou, however, claims that "Vasubandhu's Fo-hsing lun does not consider the natural seed to be the essence of Buddha-nature."11 Buddha-nature in the Fa-hsiang sense is not identical with the concept of the pure seed. Mou points out that there is
a distinction between two types of Buddha-nature in the Fo-hsing lun: the rational Buddha-nature (li-hsing fo-hsing) and the practical Buddha-nature (shing-hsing fo-hsing).12 While “the rational Buddha-nature must have its essence in the asaüskçta in accordance with the principle of emptiness (sunyata),” the practical Buddha-nature refers to the pure seeds.13 So when Mou denies the identity of Buddha-nature and the pure seeds, he is denying the identity of the rational Buddha-nature with the pure seeds. For him, the rational Buddha-nature refers to the emptiness of self (¾tman) and things (dharmas), whereas the practical Buddha-nature consists of the pure seeds.
In justifying his position, Mou distinguishes between Dharmapala’s and Asanga’s doctrine of pure seeds. Asanga denies any “inherent” pure seed. That is, all pure seeds are results of the hearing permeation. To be more precise, the pure seeds are generated by learning the Buddhist teaching, as well as by following the instructions of the master in practice. Dharmapala maintains that the pure seeds are naturally inherent. Dharmapala, however, also stresses that since these innate seeds are hidden deeply, they need the assistance of impressions of hearing (the Dharmas) in order to arise. For Mou, Dharmapala’s notion of inherence must not be understood in the transcendental sense, because it is basically an empirical concept. These naturally inherent pure seeds are at best “a priori” in the temporal sense. Mou concludes that “ultimately speaking, all these naturally inherent pure seeds are not a priori in the logical sense.”14
Mou further points out that for the Fa-hsiang School, the pure seeds, in principle, are not to be equally distributed. That is to say, it is purely contingent for one to have the pure seeds. As a result, there is a class of sentient beings that entirely lack the pure seeds. This is exactly what the Fa-hsiang School means by the icchantika. For Mou, this points to another essential distinction between the rational Buddha-nature and the naturally inherent pure seeds: While the distribution of the rational Buddha-nature is universal and necessary, the distribution of the pure seeds is particular and contingent.
Mou says of the Fa-hsiang School, “the rational Buddha-nature cannot be confused with ‘the tathagatagarbha of the originally pure mind.’”15 In his eyes, unlike the tathagatagarbha of the originally pure mind in the sense of the Awakening of Faith, the rational Buddha-nature understood by the Fa-hsiang School cannot be characterized as being originally equipped with all asaüskçta virtues. Yet the rational Buddha- nature is not a mind at all. Secondly, in opposition to the doctrine of the tathagatagarbha presented in the Awakening of Faith, the tathata in the sense of the Fa-hsiang School does not function as a transcendental ground of the world. For the Fa-hsiang School, the ground for the rise of the world
The Yogic8ra Doctrine of Buddba-Nature..., Chan 39 is to be found in the alayavijfiiina. The alayavijfiiina is here conceived both as an ontological principle and a principle of cognition. The Fa hsiang School insists that even after enlightened transformation, the iilayavijfiiina is needed for the cognition of the tathatii. As the correlate of the transformed eighth consciousness, the tathatii remains an objective principle. This indicates that for the Fa-hsiang School, after enlightenment, the relationship between the eighth consciousness and the tathatii is still understood in terms of a subject-object dichotomy. Viewed from this perspective, there is an unbridgeable epistemic gap between the transformed eighth consciousness and the tathata. In particular, the parini panna is understood as referring solely to the tathata, in the sense of the objective, static principle of sunyata. That is, the consummative nature (parini panna) is achieved purely in terms of freeing oneself from any attachment to the seeing part as the ego and the seen part as a substantial thing. This, however, does not give rise to a real identity between the transformed eighth consciousness and the tathata. Mou concludes that, for the Fa-hsiang School, the rational Buddha-nature belongs to the objective side, and the practical Buddha-nature belongs to the subjective side. To the extent that the pure seeds only belong to subjectivity, they are different from the rational Buddha-nature.
When the Fo-hsing lun claims that Buddha-nature, itself, potentially has all the virtues that it deserves to acquire, Mou indicates that this does not imply that these virtues can be generated from the rational Buddha-nature alone. That is to say, such an acquisition is not a priori guaranteed; neither is there any absolute guarantee for any pure seed to become maturely grown. 16 This explains why, for the Fa-hsiang School, both the success ofthe acquisition and full growing is purely a matter of contingency. Only Buddha-nature in an ideal sense can claim these virtues. In short, the Fa-hsiang concept of the tathagatagarbha is not identical with a transcendental mind.
It signifies the tathatii as an objective principle, rather than as an activity. Accordingly, the rational Buddha-nature is only the principle (of emptiness) to be witnessed. Being inactive, it is different from the tathagatagarbha in the sense of the Awakening of Faith. The latter represents a principle of subjectivity. Thus, while the tathagatagarbha of the Fa-hsiang School is a static principle, the tathagatagarbha of the Awakening of Faith is an active transcendental mind.17
It is clear that, for the Yogacara doctrine of Buddha-nature, the pure seeds also contribute to the attainment of Buddhahood. According to the modem Chinese monk Master Yin Shun (1906-2005), this signifies an unnecessary complication. 18 Mou, however, holds that this is only due to Master Yin Shun's overlooking of the fact that there are two kinds of Buddha-nature: the rational and the practical Buddha-nature. As is seen above, for the Fa-hsiang School, the rational Buddha-nature is emptiness (sunyata) as an objective principle, and the practical Buddha-nature, consisting of the pure seeds, is a subjective principle. The abiding place for the pure seeds is the alayavijñana, rather than the rational Buddha- nature. As the principle of emptiness, the rational Buddha-nature is not understood as the dynamic ground for the possibility of becoming enlightened.
It is only the static principle to be witnessed. This indicates that there is a distinction between emptiness and the principle of emptiness. The efficient effort for attaining enlightenment is exclusively found in the pure seeds. The growth of the naturally inherent pure seeds is solely responsible for the activity in attaining the ¾Õraya-paravçtti. 19
Therefore, it is not repetitive for the Fa-hsiang School to introduce the pure seeds as the necessary condition of attaining Buddhahood.
Mou’s articulation of the Fa-hsiang doctrine of Buddha-nature is basically consistent with Yuan Hsiao’s report. From a historical standpoint, their accounts are faithful to K’uei Ch’i’s understanding of the distinction between the rational Buddha-nature and the practical Buddha- nature. In the Miao-fa lien-hua ching hsuan-tsan (An Illumination of the Mystical Meanings of the Lotus-sǌtra), K’uei Ch’i writes: “While all sentient beings have the rational Buddha-nature, only some have the practical Buddha-nature.” 20 Mou’s articulation can also help to clarify K’uei Ch’i’s thesis in the following way: First, as an objective principle of emptiness (sunyata), all sentient beings possess the rational Buddha- nature. Second, given the unequal distribution, as well as the contingent nature of the pure seeds, it is legitimate to claim that some, but not all, sentient beings can have the practical Buddha-nature. With his account of the difference between the two kinds of the Buddha-nature, K’uei Ch’i aims to settle the controversy between the ekayana and the triyana. While the ekayana insists that all sentient beings can become Buddhas, the triyana only allows a certain class of sentient beings to attain Buddhahood.
For the latter, the fruits of praxis are different for the bodhisasattva, the pratyekabuddha, and the ÕravƗka. In terms of the universality of the rational Buddha-nature, K’uei Ch’i argues that the Fa-hsiang School is more than just a doctrine of the triyana. Mou’s articulation of the contingent nature of the pure seeds (and hence of the practical Buddha- nature), however, shows that the Fa-hsiang School is, in reality, committed to the doctrine of the triyana, rather than that of the ekayana.
Critically, Mou’s interpretation of the Fo-hsing lun as the Fa-hsiang doctrine of Buddha-nature is not a faithful interpretation of the text. The reason is two-fold. First, from a philological standpoint, as Massaki Hattori points out, the author of the Fo-hsing lun is not Vasubandhu, but Paramartha.21 Lu Ch'eng also remarks that even Hsuan Tsang himself did not assign this text to Vasubandhu.22 Secondly, Mou himself does not deny that there is a difference between Paramartha's and the Fa-hsiang doctrine of Buddha-nature. One can hardly believe that Paramartha would have translated a text that only accords with his opponent's position. Finally, in interpreting the concept of dhatu, there is a quotation from a passage from the Srimaladevi-sutra, which is found only in Paramartha's translation of the Mahayanasmrgrahabhya: "The tathagatagarbha is the dharmadhatugarbha, the dharmakayagarbha, the lokottaragarbha, and the prakçtipariuddhivgarbha." 23 This passage also appears in the Fo hsing lun for the sake of clarifying the essence of Buddha-nature. 24
Evidently then, Paramartha's theory of Buddha-nature is consistent with the position of the Fo-hsing lun.
Despite Paramartha's doctrinal kinship with the Fo-hsing lun, it is not necessary for us to accept the traditional interpretation of his doctrine of Buddha-nature. According to this interpretation, Paramartha tries to synthesize Yogacara Buddhism with the doctrine of the tathagatagarbha presented in the Awakening of Faith. This could be supported by Paramartha's above-mentioned interpolation of the text from the Srimaladevi-sutra into his translation of the Mahynasaügrahabhùya. Traditionally Paramartha is the alleged translator of the Awakening of Faith, as well as the founder of the She-lun School. All this indicates that Paramartha's doctrine of Buddha-nature results from the development of the idea of the tathagatagarbha from the Ratnagotravibhaga and the Awakening of Faith into Yogacara Buddhism. Paramartha's concept ofthe amalavijnana (immaculate consciousness) is therefore only a Yogacara correspondent to the tathagatagarbha in the sense of the Awakening of Faith. In short, according to the traditional interpretation, Paramartha introduces an eternal pure consciousness into the Yogacara doctrine of Buddha-nature.
In the Awakening of Faith, such an originally pure mind of Buddha-nature has been identified as the central reality of all reality. Paramartha supposedly transforms the essence of the iilayavijiiiina. In particular, as Master Yin Shun claims, Paramartha introduces the concept of the "enlightening alayavijnana."25 According to the original position of
Yogacara Buddhism, the alayavijnana is strictly defiled. Under the influence of the doctrine of the tathagatagarbha represented by the Awakening of Faith, however, Paramartha is obliged to distinguish between two kinds of the alayavijnana: the "defiled alayavijnana" in the traditional sense, and the "enlightening alayavijnana."26 While the former is identical with the impure paratantra, the latter coincides with the pure paratantra. Like the pure mind of the tathagatagarbha in the sense of the Awakening of Faith, Paramartha’s pure mind of Buddha-nature is called “tathagatagarbha” when covered by obstruction. Conversely, it is called “Dharmakaya” when it is free from any obstruction. In itself, the pure mind of the tathagatagarbha is said to have potentially acquired infinite virtues. Ontologically, such a pure mind functions as the transcendental ground for the possibility of both the supramundane and mundane world. On the level of praxis, it is a synonym for original enlightenment in the Awakening of Faith.
From a historical standpoint, this traditional interpretation of Paramartha’s doctrine of Buddha-nature has the virtue of being able to explain why his version of Yogacara did not fare so well. In identifying Buddha-nature as the eternal pure mind (or the original enlightenment), it signifies a modification of the Mahayanasaügraha along the lines of the Awakening of Faith. This also subsumes Yogacara thought under the doctrine of the tath¾gatagarbha presented in the Awakening of Faith. There is, as a result, the danger of undermining Yogacara Buddhism in favour of the latter doctrine. Therefore, Paramartha’s doctrine of Buddha- nature has been rejected as a heretical Yogacara. Historically, this kind of critique has prevailed since K’uei Ch’i.27 Even today this is considered to be evidence for Paramartha’s deviation from the original position of Maitreya, Asanga and Vasubandhu.
This traditional interpretation of Paramartha’s doctrine of Buddha- nature is, however, highly problematic. First, mainly thanks to the efforts of Ueda, modern scholarship has already reached the consensus that it is highly improbable that Paramartha was the translator of the Awakening of Faith.28 Second, there is an essential distinction between Paramartha’s and
the Awakening of Faith’s doctrines of the tathagatagarbha. Buddha-nature in the Awakening of Faith is absolutely pure. In contrast, for the Fo-hsing lun, Buddha-nature “is neither determinately pure nor determinately impure.”29 This shows that Paramartha’s Buddha-nature is not absolutely pure. As Paramartha explains, “If it is determinately pure, then it is not
identical with ignorance.”30 To this extent, his theory of Buddha-nature is rather similar to that of T’ien T’ai Buddhism. In claiming that all sentient beings have Buddha-nature, like the T’ien T’ai Buddhists, he assigns impurity (= ignorance) and purity (= bodhi) to the Being of sentient beings. For the author of the Fo-hsing lun and T’ien T’ai Buddhism, apart from ignorance, there is no Buddha-nature.
In terms of their divergent conceptions of ignorance, one can discern another essential distinction between Paramartha’s and the Awakening of Faith’s doctrines of Buddha-nature. For Paramartha, ignorance is an innnanent possibility of Buddha-nature. It is for this reason that he declares Buddha-nature to be neither determinately pure, nor determinately impure. Apart from ignorance there is no Buddha nature. Accordingly, in attaining Buddhahood one only has to manifest the possibility of purity, rather than impurity. On the other hand, according to the Awakening of Faith, ignorance is extrinsic to Buddha-nature. Here, the Buddha-nature itself is absolutely pure. Consequently, Buddha-nature and ignorance constitute an exclusive either/or relation.
Although Paramartha and the Awakening of Faith both employ the phrase "the original pure mind" in characterizing their respective conceptions of Buddha-nature, they differ in their understanding of its meaning. The same linguistic phrase should not blind us to the semantic distinction. The traditional interpretation of Paramartha's doctrine of Buddha-nature results from overlooking this important distinction.
Positively speaking, the uniqueness of Paramartha's doctrine of Buddha-nature is evidenced in the Fo-hsing lun: In essence, there are three types of Buddha-nature. These three are the so-called three types of Buddha-nature as the three grounds. These three grounds refer to: (1) the ground for the deserved attainment; (2) the ground for the endeavour (prayoga); (3) the ground for perfection. The ground for the deserved attainment refers to the tathata manifested by the siinyatii of the dual [i.e., self and dharmas). In virtue of such a siinyatii, one deserves to attain the mind ofthe bodhi, the endeavour, etc., and even the post-path Dharmakiiya. That is the reason why it is called "the deserved attainment." The ground for the endeavour refers to the mind of the bodhi. In virtue of such a mind, one can attain the thirty-seven ranks, ten bhumi , ten paramitii, the auxiliary skills and even the post-path Dharmakaya. That is the reason why it is called "the ground of the endeavour." The ground for perfection basically refers to the endeavour. In virtue of the endeavour, one can attain both the ground of perfection and the fruit of perfection. While the ground for perfection refers to happiness, wisdom and praxis, the fruit of perfection refers to the transcendence of favours and virtues in terms of wisdom. Among these grounds, the first one has its essence in the asaf!lSkrta in accordance with the principle [of emptiness); the latter two have their essence in the samskrta wish and action.31
For Paramartha, there is a three-fold structure of Buddha-nature. First, Buddha-nature functions as the ground for the deserved attainment. Second, it functions as the ground for the endeavour (prayoga). Third, it functions as the ground for perfection. More precisely, that which functions as the ground for the deserved attainment is “the tathat¾ manifested by the emptiness of self (¾taman) and things (dharmas).”32
Insofar as this ground refers to the asaüskçta tathat¾, it constitutes the rational Buddha-nature. Conversely, that which functions as the ground for the endeavour (prayoga) and for perfection is the mind of the bodhi and the endeavour. Since these two grounds refer to the asaüskçta wish and action, they constitute the practical Buddha-nature.
It is possible that Paramartha is trying to articulate the point made by Asaõga in the Mahayanasaügraha: “The supramundane mind arises because its seed is the impressions of hearing [the Dharmas) that flows from the purest Dharmadh¾tu.”33 Paramartha tries to articulate Asaõga’s concept of the purest Dharmadh¾tu from the standpoint of Buddha-nature. Such a possibility is anticipated by Vasabandhu’s thesis in his commentary on the Madhy¾ntavibh¾ga: “It is called ‘dharmadhƗtu’ because the holy Dharma functions as the ground.”34 The origination of the pure seeds, and hence of the supramundane mind, is traced back to the pure possibility of Buddha-nature. When Buddha-nature is in the state of impurity, it is attached to the external world. When the pure possibility of Buddha-nature is realized, however, it becomes identical with the purest Dharmadh¾tu.
Unlike in the case of the Fa-hsiang School, Paramartha does not identify the practical Buddha-nature with the pure seeds. For him, while the former signifies a condition of the possibility of attaining Buddhahood, the latter represents the actual condition of realizing Buddhahood. The practical Buddha-nature consists of the ground for the endeavour and perfection. This can be understood, in modern terms, as the existential- ontological possibility of becoming enlightened. To be an existential- ontological possibility means to be a mode of Being of the sentient being. This is so because the Fo-hsing lun states, “All sentient beings have the tath¾gatagarbha,” as well as, “All sentient beings are the tath¾gatagarbhƗ.”35 This shows that apart from the tathagatagarbha, no sentient being is possible. In other words, the tathagatagarbha belongs to the Being of sentient beings.
On the other hand the pure seeds result from hearing the virtuous teachings and practicing Buddhist Dharmas. We could say that there is an ontological difference between the practical Buddha-nature and the pure seed: While the practical Buddha-nature is an ontological concept, the pure seed is an ontical concept. That is to say, the practical Buddha-nature
constitutes the Being of sentient beings, whereas the pure seeds are contingently acquired by sentient beings. For Paramartha, practical Buddha-nature and the pure seeds are different things. In contrast, for the Fa-hsiang School, the practical Buddha-nature and pure seeds are identical. Moreover, Paramartha's practical Buddha-nature meaningfully involves both the determination of the mind and the endeavour. According to him, both the rational and the practical Buddha-nature are essentially active and dynamic.
For the Fa-hsiang School, however, only the practical Buddha-nature is active, whereas the rational Buddha-nature remains static. Finally, since the Fa-hsiang School denies the universality of the practical Buddha-nature, it is not wholly faithful to the Mahayana standpoint. In granting the practical Buddha-nature to all sentient beings, Paramartha makes possible the doctrine of the ekayana. Particularly, following Asanga's thesis that all pure seeds result from new permeation, Paramartha does not allow the pure seeds to be only possible for a certain and limited class of sentient beings. The practical Buddha-nature in Paramartha's sense is therefore entirely different from that employed by the Fa-hsiang School.
If Paramartha's articulation does not change Asal).ga's original position, then what is his contribution? One can answer this in the following way. First, with the thesis that Buddha-nature is neither determinately pure nor impure, Paramartha is able to develop the cardinal thesis in the Madhyiintavibhiiga that "there is also abhiitaparikalpita in sunyata" from the standpoint of a theory of Buddha-nature.36 While the Madhyiil7tavibhaga's approach 1s more descriptive, Paramartha's orientation is more existential-ontological. For Paramartha, the rational and practical Buddha-natures are two sides of the same coin. Paramartha thereby shows in what way Yogacara Buddhism is committed to the unity ofthe doctrinal and practical approaches. Paramartha indeed borrows the language from the Ratnagotravibhaga in articulating his theory of Buddha-nature. This, however, does not imply that he is committed to the doctrine ofthe tathagatagarbha presented in the Awakening of Faith. The latter position is primarily transcendental. In contrast, Paramartha develops a Yogadira doctrine of Buddha-nature from an existential-ontological perspective.
In claiming that Buddha-nature is neither determinately pure nor determinately impure, the Fo-hsing lun also states: "This [[[Buddha]]-] nature is non-abiding, non-attaching and groundless." 37 Buddha-nature, in Paramartha's eyes, does not function as the transcendental ground for the possibility ofthe world as does the tathagatagarbha in the Awakening of Faith. The Yogacarin Paramartha, on the contrary, tries to explicate the meaning of Buddha-nature in terms of the Three Natures, for “such Three Natures embrace the tathagata in an exhaustive manner.”38 In this context, The Three Natures not only covers the parikalpita (imaginary nature), the paratantra (other-dependent nature) and the parinisanna, but also include the Three Non-Natures, i.e., the lakùaõaniþsvabh¾vat¾ (non-essence of characteristics), the utpattiniþsvabh¾vat¾ (non-essence of origination) and the param¾rthaniþsvabh¾vat¾ (non-essence of superior truth). To say that “the Three Non-Natures are non-ground,” is equivalent to saying that Buddha-nature is groundless. 39 This is another sign of Paramartha’s existential-ontological approach.
The Mahayanasaügraha states: “The destruction of defilement by the Bodhisattvas signifies the reach of the non-dual nirv¾õa.” 40 As Vasubandhu explains, this thesis aims to say:
The bodhisattvas do not see the difference between saüs¾ra and nirv¾õa…The bodhisattvas have already attained the non-discriminating wisdom (nirvikalpajñ¾na). Since there is no difference between saüs¾ra and nirv¾õa, they are non-dual.41
Paramartha’s doctrine of Buddha-nature is generally close to the perfect teachings in the T’ien T’ai Buddhist sense. In fact, Chih I (538-
597), the founder of T’ien T’ai Buddhism, notes that the Mahayanasaügraha has the tendency towards the position of the perfect teachings. In the Ching-kuang-ming-ching hsuan-i (On the Mystical Meaning of the Suvarnprabhasa-sutra), Chih I writes:
When one follows the simile of the contamination of gold by soil in the Mahayanasaügraha, then one can discover that it points to the position of the perfect teachings. Here soil signifies the ¾d¾na. The contamination signifies the ¾laya. And gold signifies the amala. Clearly, this is a doctrine of the perfect teachings.42
In illuminating Chih I’s point in the Ching-kuang-ming-ching hsuan-i che- yi-chi (An Explication of the Mystical Meaning of the Suvarnprabh¾sa- sǌtra), Chih Li (960-1028), a major representative of the T’ien T’ai School during the Sung period, likewise states:
If one wants to develop the perfect teachings, it is necessary to follow the thesis in Mahayanasaügraha that a lump of gold, soil and the contamination are inseparable from each other. As a result, all the minds of the Sravaka, the Bodhisattva and the Buddha are equipped with these three kinds ofvijiiiina 43
In this way, Chih I and Chih Li find a germ of the perfect teachings in Paramartha's translation of the Mahiiyiinasar[lgraha. Regrettably, they fail to recognize the homogeneity between Paramartha's and their own doctrines of Buddha-nature. In particular, Chih I classifies Yogacara Buddhism as of the distinctive, rather than of the perfect, teachings in his syncretism.
In introducing the simile of the contamination of gold by soil, what Asa1,1ga has in mind is the two-fold status of the paratantra in his doctrine of the Three Natures. As Vasubandhu expounds, "The point of the thesis that the paratantra is equipped with two parts is to stress that all dharmas are neither real nor unreal." 44 In explicating this important thesis of the Yogacara Buddhist founders, Paramartha writes:
The Two Truths can neither be said to be real nor to be unreal. It is because they are neither real nor unreal. The paramiirtha (Superior Truth) can neither be said to be real nor to be unreal. It is due to the fact that man and dharmas are unreal, the paramiirtha cannot be said to be real. And it is due to the fact that the paramiirtha clearly serves the manifestation of emptiness of the two [i.e., self (iitman) and things (dharmas)], it cannot be said to be unreal. It is due to the parikalpita that the smpYrti cannot be said to be real. And it is due to the paratantra that the sa'f!lvrti (Conventional Truth) cannot be said to be unreal. In addition, the paramiirtha is indeterminate regarding reality or non-reality. Man and dharmas are both at the same time real and unreal. Even their siinyatii is at the same time real and unreal. The same holds for the sa'f!lvrti. It is due to the parikalpita that the sa'f!lvrti cannot be said to be determinately real. And it is due to the paratantra that the sa'f!lvrti cannot be said to be determinately unreal.45
In Paramartha's eyes, there are two kinds of the paratantra: the impure and the pure. While the impure paratantra depends on the parikalpita, the pure paratantra depends on the tathata. 46 Therefore, to say that the paratantra is of two kinds implies that the sa'f!lvrti can neither be said to be determinately real nor determinately unreal. Correlatively, the paramartha can neither be said to be real nor unreal. This indicates that there is a dependence of the Two Truths upon the Three Natures. With the Two Truths one explains the world, but with the Three Natures one aims to transform the world. According to the original position of Yogacara Buddhism, practical philosophy is primary. More importantly, Paramartha tries to radicalise this thesis from the standpoint of Buddha-nature. 47 Accordingly, he declares, “If one does not speak of Buddha-nature, then one does not understand emptiness.” 48 To this extent, Paramartha’s doctrine of Buddha-nature results from a radical development of Asaõga’s and Vasubandhu’s Yogacara thought. In this way, he harmonizes Yogacara Buddhism with the MadhyamƯka.
Mou might be the first scholar to remind us of the above-mentioned important remarks made by Chih I and Chih Li on the Mahayanasaügraha.49 Unfortunately, like Chih I and Chih Li, he fails to appreciate Paramartha’s affinity with the T’ien T’ai School’s perfect teachings. As a consequence, he also misses the real difference between Paramartha’s and the Fa-hsiang doctrine of Buddha-nature. Despite these limitations, Mou must be appreciated for working out the major characteristics of the perfect teachings of T’ien T’ai Buddhism.50
With the help of these essential ideas one can confirm Paramartha’s affinity with the perfect teachings. First, T’ien T’ai practitioners reject the transcendental-grounding approach. Instead, they stress the idea of the non-abiding ground. From a non-abiding ground, nonetheless, all dharmas emerge. Likewise, Paramartha speaks of “the non-abiding nirv¾õa.”51 Accordingly, Buddha-nature in his sense does not function as a transcendental ground for the possibility of the world of dharmas. In claiming that the Three Non-Natures are groundless, Paramartha also recognizes that all dharmas are given to us via the mano- jalpa.52 As a Yog¾c¾rin, he accounts for the origin of the world in terms of the seeds. Unlike the Fa-hsiang School, however, he does not treat the seeds as substantial.53 Rather, Paramartha identifies the seeds as something postulated from the standpoint of the present moment. Thus, he characterizes the seeds as virtual in regard to their ontological status.
Secondly, according to the T’ien T’ai, even after enlightenment, the world remains. To experience the emptiness of the world does not imply any destruction of the world itself. What is to be removed is only the sickness (= the attachment to the world and the ego), but not the dharmas. In other words, the world remains intact even after the removal of ignorance. As Ueda points out, for the Old School of Yogacara Buddhism, the pçùña-labdha-jñ ¾na (the subsequently acquired wisdom) has the form of the “non-discriminating discrimination.”54 It has the fundamental aspect of non-duality, but also the aspect of duality, i.e. , subject-object distinction. The validity of the subject-object schema is not, however, absolute; rather it is relativized. It is conceived as a necessary moment of wisdom. 55 In order to emphasize this fact, Paramartha coins the term amalavijfiiina (immaculate consciousness). In reality, the amalavijiiiina consists of two aspects: the aspect of the identity between the knowing subject and the known object, and the aspect of the opposition of the knowing subject and the known object. Certainly, the identity aspect is the more fundamental of the two. With the help of such a non-discriminating discrimination, the world of dharmas remains even when all the ignorance is removed.
Thirdly, in opposition to the absolutely pure mind as presented in the Awakening of Faith, the T'ien T'ai speak ofthe mind of ignorance and Dharamatii. In other words, for the perfect teachings, both authenticity and inauthenticity qua possibilities are immanent to the Being of humans. This implies that humans are responsible for their fallenness. This, however, also signifies that no one can be a priori excluded from the possibility of attaining Buddhahood. In claiming that Buddha-nature is neither determinately pure nor impure, Paramartha aims to assign the possibility of attaining Buddhahood to all sentient beings. In expounding the concept of the bipartite paratantra in the Mahiiyiinasa'f!lgraha, he proclaims: "While the opposition between the state of sentient being and that of the enlightened is the opposition between the blind and the sight, these two states belong to one and the same person." 56 Thus, like T'ien T'ai Buddhism, Paramartha considers sa'f!lSiira and nirvii to be non differentiated.
Finally, according to the T'ien T'ai, affliction is identical with the bodhi, and the bodhi is identical with affliction. Paramartha says that "The realm of sentient beings is not different from the Dharmakiiya, and the Dharmakiiya is not different from the realm of sentient beings."57 They share the aim to stress that both authenticity and inauthenticity belong to the Being of sentient beings.
Our association of Paramartha's theory of Buddha-nature to the T'ien T'ai doctrine by no means implies that they are identical with each other. First of all, the Yogacara theory of the pure seeds is missing in T'ien T'ai Buddhism. From Paramartha's emphasis on the importance of the hearing permeation, one can also infer that he would reject the path of sudden enlightenment. Such a possibility is nonetheless open for T'ien T'ai Buddhism. As Ueda observes, the emphasis on the relation between the knowing subject and the known object is unique to the Yogacara.58
More importantly, Paramartha, unlike the T'ien T'ai, does not grant Buddha-nature to non-sentient beings such as grass and tiles. Paramartha is not so radical in claiming that Buddha-nature has evil.
Critically, one could raise the following challenge: “What is the virtue of stressing that Paramartha’s Yogacara thought belongs to the dimension of the perfect teachings?” In order to answer this important question, let us consider the difference between the distinctive and the perfect teachings. As Mou points out, both the doctrine of the tath¾gatagarbha presented in the Awakening of Faith and the Fa-hsiang School belong to the dimension of the distinctive teachings.59 For the distinctive teachings, the supramundane pure mind is separated from the world. In other words, the world does not belong to the Being (or ontological structure) of the pure mind (in the empirical or transcendental sense). On the other hand, according to the perfect teachings, the mind and the world are inseparable. In modern terms, the mind is essentially a being- in-the-world. The removal of defilements only signifies the mind’s release from attachments to the world. This does not imply that the mind and the world constitute a zero-sum game. Furthermore, with its idea of non- ground, the perfect teachings do not identify the mind as the transcendental ground for the possibility of the world. Thereby, the perfect teachings avoid the danger of subjectivising the world.
Failing to see the difference between the perfect and the distinctive teachings, the traditional interpretation errs in identifying Paramartha’s Buddha-nature as the transcendental ground of the world.
Undeniably, as far as understanding Buddha-nature is concerned, there is also a fundamental distinction between the Fa-hsiang School and the Awakening of Faith. The Fa-hsiang School holds the theory of the “five distinct lineages (gotrƗ).” It admits the group of sentient beings who are completely devoid of the possibility of attaining Buddhahood. Accordingly, its approach is non-egalitarian. For the Awakening of Faith, however, all sentient beings must have Buddha-nature, and their Buddha- nature is absolutely pure. To this extent, it is faithful to the Buddhist ideal of equality. They are, however, common in being “deterministic” in their approaches. While the Fa-hsiang School’s discriminative distribution of the pure seeds gives rise to the five fixed types of lineage, the Awakening of Faith adheres to the concept of an absolutely pure Buddha-nature. From an existentialist standpoint, both are committed to the error of granting priority to “essence” over “existence.” That is to say, both understand Buddha-nature from an essentialist perspective. In contrast, in claiming that Buddha-nature is neither determinately pure nor determinately impure, Paramartha is consistent with the existentialist thesis that “existence precedes essence.” 60 This shows that Paramartha’s theory of Buddha- nature is “existentialistically” justified.
The Mahaparinirvti!fa-siitra can lend support to Paramartha's theory of Buddha-nature. This siitra states: "The icchantikas are indeterminate ... Even the srota-apannas and the pratyekabuddhas are indeterminate ... If an icchantika is rid of his ichantikahood, he can attain Buddhahood."61 On the way towards Buddhahood, no sentient being is determinate. This is an implication ofParamartha's claim that "All sentient beings have Buddha-nature."62 As Mou insightfully observed:
Such a position in granting indeterminacy to different finite existential stages is reminiscent of the French existentialist Sartre's thesis of the "undefinability of man."... Ifman is defined according to a certain ideal type, then he would become a sentient being of a determined essence... If this is the case, then the attaining of Buddhahood would become an impossible dream. In this way, Buddha would only be an ideal archetype which is never attainable. But the principle of "indeterminacy" in the Mahaparinirvti!fa-siitra rejects this idea.
The principle of indeterminacy in the Mahaparinirvti!fa-siitra shows that in granting Buddha-nature to all sentient beings, its position is anti essentialist. Indeed, it also states: "Buddha-nature is neither samskrta nor asarrzskrta, therefore it is not discontinuous."63 Paramartha's ie -that Buddha-nature is neither determinately pure nor determinately impure-is a consistent development of this position.
In regard to Jikido Takasaki's puzzle, "Was Paramartha's Yogacara doctrine (= theory of the Three Natures) not influenced by the doctrine of the tathiigatagarbha [along the lines of the Awakening of Faith) at all?" one can answer as follows: 64 In employing the language of the texts belonging to the lineage of the Awakening of Faith, Paramartha developed an innovative doctrine of the tathiigatagarbha. While Paramartha's doctrine of Buddha-nature is close to the perfect teachings, the Awakening of Faith's doctrine of the tathiigatagarbha belongs to the distinctive teachings.
One can articulate the essential differences between Paramartha's and the Fa-hsiang doctrine of Buddha-nature as follows: First, for Paramartha, the rational and practical Buddha-nature are basically two aspects of one and the same coin; both are dynamic in character. Conversely, according to K 'uei Ch'i, the practical and rational Buddha-natures are separated from each other: While the rational Buddha-nature is basically static and objective, the practical Buddha-nature is dynamic and subjective.
Second, the practical Buddha-nature, in Paramartha’s sense, signifies an existential-ontological possibility for sentient beings. The possibility of becoming a Buddha is primarily grounded in the practical Buddha-nature, rather than in the acquisition of pure seeds. For Paramartha, the pure seeds are only the empirical, ontical condition of attaining Buddhahood. Insofar as the pure seeds constitute the condition of the realization of Buddhahood, they contribute to the process of becoming a Buddha. With the claim that “all sentient beings have Buddha-nature,” however, Paramartha is able to defend the Mahayana spirit of Yogacara Buddhism. 65 For the Fa-hsiang School, the practical Buddha-nature is reduced to the naturally inherent pure seeds. The pure seeds, however, are only attributed to some sentient beings. There is thus an inequality among sentient beings regarding their possibility of attaining Buddhahood. As a result, the Fa-hsiang School can hardly demonstrate the Mahayana spirit.
In conclusion, we can say that since Paramartha’s doctrine of Buddha-nature grants a priority to the practical, he more closely adheres to the original spirit of Yogacara Buddhism. On the other hand, while being imprisoned in the primacy of knowledge, the Fa-hsiang School’s doctrines actually undermine the importance of praxis. This contrast also shows us in what ways one can achieve a Yogacara doctrine of Buddha-nature that is compatible with the position of the ekayana. 53
1 Cf: Yoshifumi Ueda, Bukkyo shisOJJsi kenkyu (A Study in the Buddhist History of Ideas). Tokyo: 1958; Yoshifumi Ueda, "Two Main Streams of Thought in Yogacirra Philosophy." Philosophy East and West, Vol. 17 (1967), pp. 155-165; Nagao Gadjin, Madhyam"ika and Yogacara, trans. Leslie Kawamura. New York: 1991.
2 In Taish0 Vol. 31, pp. 787-813; Vasubandhu is labeled as its author, and Paramartha as its translator.
3Mou Tsung-san, Fo-hsing yu po-je (Buddha-nature and PrajtU). Taipei: 1997.
4 I benefit from the comments of an anonymous referee in developing these lines.
5 Taish0 vol. 38, p. 249.
7 T'ang Yung-tung, Han Wei Liang-Chin Nan-pei-ch 'ao Fa-chiao Shih (History of Chinese Buddhism.from 206 B.C. to A.D. 589). Taipei: 1976, pp. 681-682.
8 Cf.: Tokiwa Daijo, Bussh0 no kenkyo (A Study of Buddha-nature).
9 Ibid, pp. 151-152.
10 John Keenan, "The Doctrine of Buddha Nature in Chinese Buddhism-Hui K'ai on Paramartha." Buddha Nature: A Festschrift in Honor ofMinoru Kiyota, ed. Paul Griffiths and John Keenan. Tokyo: 1990, pp. 125-137.
11 Ibid, p. 188.
12 Actually these two terms were introduced by K'uei Ch'i. But Mou applies these two terms in characterizing the Fo-hsing lun.
13 Ibid, pp. 317-318.
14 Ibid, p. 315ff.
15 Ibid, p. 318; see also: pp. 316-317.
16 Cf.: Ibid, pp. 322-323. This could well be Mou's tactic in interpreting the following thesis in the Fo-hsing lun: "The tathata is neither determinately pure nor determinately impure."
17 Cf.: Ibid, p. 512ff.
18 Cf: Master Yin Shun, She ta-ch 'eng lun chiang-chi (An Explication of the Mahyanasai.igraha). Taipei: 1962, p. 143ff.
19 Cf: Fo-hsing yu po-je, p. 3llff.
20 Taish0 Vol. 34, p. 656.
21 Cf: Massaki Hattori, '"Busshoron' no ichi kousatsu (An Examination of the Fo-hsing lun)" Bukky 0shigaku, Vol. 4 (1955), p. 160-174.
22 Cf: Lu Ch'eng, Yin-tu fo-hsueh ssu-hsiang kai-lun (A General Introduction to Indian Buddhism). Taipei: 1983, p. 243.
23 Taish0 Vol. 31, p. 796. See also: Master Yin-shun, Ju-lai-tsang chih yen-chiu (A Study of the Tathagatagarbha). Taipei: 1988, p. 217.
24 Taish0 Vol. 31, p. 156. See also: "The Doctrine of Buddha Nature in Chinese Buddhism--- Hui-K'ai on Paramartha."
25 "The Doctrine of Buddha Nature in Chinese Buddhism -- Hui-K'ai on Paramartha," p. 131.
26 Cf.: Ju-lai-tsang chih yen-chiu, p. 212.
27 Cf.: K’uei Ch’i, Bien chung-bin lun shu-chi (A Commentary on the MadhyƗntavibhƗga), Taishº, Vol. 44, pp. 1-46.
28 Cf.: Jikido Takasaki, “Nyoraizo to arayashiki (The TathƗgatagarbha and the Ɩlayavij¤Ɨna)” Nyoraizo shiso (The Thought of the TathƗgatagarbha), ed. Akira Hirakawa, et. al. Tokyo: 1982, Chapter. 6.
29 Taishº, Vol. 31, p. 795.
31 Ibid, p. 794.
32 Ibid, p. 787.
33 Ibid, p. 117. Here I modified Keenan’s translation in: Asanƥa, The Summary of the Great Vehicle, trans. John Keenan. Tokyo: 1991, p. 21.
34 Taishº, Vol. 31, p. 452.
35 Ibid, p. 811; p. 808.
36 Ibid, p. 451.
37 Ibid, p. 795.
38 Ibid, p. 794.
39 Ibid, p. 867.
40 Ibid, p. 129.
41 Ibid, p. 247.
42 Taishº, Vol. 39, p. 5.
43 Ibid, p. 26.
44 Taishº, Vol. 31, p. 193.
45 Ibid, pp. 793-794.
46 Ibid, p. 794.
47 Cf. Ibid, p. 808.
48 Ibid, p. 787.
49 Cf.: Fo-hsing yu po-je, p. 580ff.
50 Ibid, p. 677ff.
51 Taishº, Vol. 31, p. 799.
52 Cf.: Ibid, p. 199ff. See also: Bukkyo shisºhsi kenkyu, p. 140ff.
53 Cf. Taishºo, Vol. 31, p. 163.
54 Cf.: Yoshifumi Ueda, Bonbun yushiki sanjuju no kaimei (An Explication of Sthiramati’s YogƗcƗra Triü÷ikƗ). Tokyo: 1987, p. 121.
55 Such a relativation of the subject-object schema is existential-ontologically justified. As Heidegger points out, “Thematising Objectifies…the thematising of entities within-the-world presupposes Being-in-the-world as the basis of Dasein.” (Martin Heidegger, Being and Time, trans. J. Macquarrie and E. Robinson. New York: 1962, pp. 444-445.) Like Heidegger, Paramàrtha only opposes the thesis of the primacy of the subject-object dichotomy.
56 Yoshifumi Ueda, Shodaijoron kodoku (A Study of the MahƗyƗnasaügraha). Tokyo: 1981, p. 299.
57 Taishº, Vol. 31, p. 796.
58 Yoshifumi Ueda, Daijobukkyoshisº (The Thought of Mahayana Buddhism).
Tokyo: 1982, p. 129ff.
59 Cf.: Fo-hsingyu po-je, p. 636; p. 838.
6° Cf.: Jean-Paul Sartre, Existentialism and Humanism, trans. Philip Mairet. London: 1948, p. 34.
61 Taish0 Vol. 12, p. 493.
62 Ibid, p. 522.
63 Ib1'd'p. 494.
64 Jikido Takasaki, "Shindai sanglz0 no shiso (On Tripitaka Paramratha's Thought)." Shukyo Katsumata wakushi kosa kinen ronbunsh@ (Festschrift in Honor of Dr. Shukyo Katsumata). Tokyo: 1981, p. 706.
65 Taish0 Vol. 31, p. 787.